WHAT'S NEW (in my opinion), Friday, 28 Jan 1994 Washington, DC 1. THE STATE OF THE UNION:
WHAT'S NEW (in my opinion), Friday, 28 Jan 1994 Washington, DC
1. THE STATE OF THE UNION: "SCIENCE" WAS NOT ON THE TELEPROMPTER. A search
of the President's 7,500-word speech found no reference to "science," and
"research" came up only in connection with AIDS and health care. Crime,
health care and welfare reform just don't involve a lot of physics. Mr.
Clinton did mention "scientists" once--but they weren't ours: "Instead of
building weapons in space," he said, "Russian scientists will help us build
the space station." Although the President promised to send Congress a
tough budget next month that will eliminate 100 domestic programs and cut
back on 300 more, he asked the lawmakers to "invest more in the technologies
of tomorrow as we reduce defense spending."
2. THE STATE OF HIGH-ENERGY PHYSICS: LOOKING FOR "A NEW VISION." Sid Drell
has agreed to chair a HEPAP "Future Vision" sub-panel. He promises a
long-range plan by the end of May. But at a hearing on Wednesday before the
House Science Subcommittee, OSTP Director John Gibbons testified that for
several years the future will be $660M a year, with only inflationary
increases. Gibbons did not mention the LHC in his prepared testimony, but a
panel of four high-energy physicists that followed mentioned it 62 times!
The current goal of the US program is to complete the B-Factory at SLAC and
the main injector at Fermilab by about 1998, while continuing to utilize
existing facilities. At a flat $660M per year, that doesn't leave much for
US participation in the LHC.
3. DISPOSITION OF EXCESS WEAPONS PLUTONIUM: THE PROBLEM IS NOW! Citing a
"clear and present danger" to international security, a National Academy of
Sciences panel, chaired by Wolfgang Panofsky, released a report Monday
calling for prompt action to deal with plutonium from dismantled weapons --
particularly in the former Soviet Union. The panel proposes a "spent-fuel
standard" for disposal; that is, making the weapons plutonium as difficult
to recover as the plutonium in spent reactor fuel. The best options are to
use it as reactor fuel, or mix it with high-level waste and vitrify it.
Development of advanced reactors to consume plutonium was not recommended --
there isn't time. Alas, weapons plutonium is only part of the problem;
there is a glut of civilian plutonium from reprocessing in Britain and
France. The relatively high level of Pu-240 in civilian plutonium makes it
hard to design high-yield weapons, but low yields are bad enough.
4. DOE HAS AGREED TO LIMIT WEAPONS PLUTONIUM STORAGE AT PANTEX. Texans
living near the dismantling facility are no doubt sleeping more soundly now
that DOE says it will store only 12,000 spheres (about 50 tons!) on site,
rather than the planned 20,000 spheres; 6,000 are already there. It's not
clear where the rest will go.
5. VERN EHLERS IS SWORN IN: THE FIRST PHD PHYSICIST IN CONGRESS. At the
Tuesday ceremony, Ehlers acknowledged his uniqueness, and expressed the hope
that "there will be many more in the future"
Robert L. Park firstname.lastname@example.org The American Physical Society
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank